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Bay Area Council urges California legislature to work with Brown

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The Bay Area Council, a business group made up of 275 of the San Francisco area’s largest firms, today called on the state legislature to find a way to work with Governor Jerry Brown, and close the state’s $26.6 billion budget deficit. In a letter faxed to each member of the Senate and Assembly in Sacramento, the group urged members to “embrace the spirit of compromise.” The Council last week endorsed Brown’s plan after a meeting between Brown and the group’s executive committee (see story). Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Council, said at the time that not everything Brown proposed was to the group’s liking. “Our members don’t like the higher taxes, which run counter to expanding business and jobs in the state. But on balance, we need to be part of the solution and we support the Governor’s proposal overall.”

Days after his meeting with the Bay Area Council last week, Jerry Brown saw his prospects for a budget deal come to a screeching halt as five Republican legislators said the process had come to an impasse, in that Brown was unable to get the necessary stakeholders to compromise (see story). Democrats and Republicans have been unable to agree to a plan to pass a balanced budget, which is required by California’s constitution. The state faces a shortfall of $26.6 billion, and Brown has proposed a plan which will raise taxes, extend taxes already in place, and cut spending. The cuts and taxes are roughly equal, but the Democrat’s refusal to cut programs and Republican’s refusal to raise taxes have led to a collapse in the negotiations.

The letter sent to the Senate and Assembly reinforced the executive committee’s position on taxes, but went on to say that the governor’s budget was an honest reflection of the “dire fiscal situation that faces California.” While the council remains opposed to higher taxes in principal, uncertainty and chaos is more of a concern to business, the letter went on to say. Given that, Brown’s budget, “is a fair and rational combination of cuts and taxes.” The letter took issue with the idea of eliminating redevelopment agencies, saying that “Radical change in process is not a good partner for long term investments in land development. We believe that redevelopment should be reformed in such a way that best reflects our collective vision of smart growth, strong communities and real economic development.”

Today’s effort from the San Francisco based business leaders urged the warring factions to get together, “to stay at the table until the task at hand is complete, and to help California move forward and prosper.”